Local Retail Clinics Fold

March 30, 2008
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GRAND RAPIDS — An effort by two local health care organizations to operate medical clinics in Meijer Inc. stores has folded.

Physicians Organization of Western Michigan and Metro Health closed three Affordable Basic Care clinics in Grand Rapids-area Meijer stores at the first of the year, POWM Executive Director David Silliven said. That followed efforts to re-open health clinics in Meijer stores in Indiana and in other parts of Michigan.

“We just couldn’t get the patient counts we needed,” Silliven said. “We just couldn’t make it work financially.”

Metro Health had formed a subsidiary called Metro Health Basic Care, which was working with another company to provide staff for seven clinics in Michigan and nine in Indiana. But that public medical staffing company lost around $1 million on its attempt to establish retail clinics, and left the state in mid-2007. Metro Health and POWM tried to regroup and reopen the affected clinics.

“Either it’s just not the right time or not the right avenue for health care,” Metro Health CFO Timothy Susterich said. “It is taking off elsewhere. Our hope to break even was 12 to 15 patients a day. What we were seeing was four or five.”

Health clinics are a hot new trend for some retailers. Wal-Mart last year announced plans to add 3,000 to its stores, and other retailers with pharmacies, such as Target and CVS, also planned clinics. Advantage Health, a primary care practice owned by Saint Mary’s Health Care, opened a clinic last fall in Spartan Stores’ new Family Fare grocery store in Allendale.

The clinics employ physician assistants and nurse practitioners to provide basic care for such minor health issues as sprains and colds on a fee-for-service basis.

Meijer spokesman Frank Guglielmi said clinics had closed in most of the regional chain’s stores that had them. He noted that Meijer did not own or operate the clinics, but leased space to them.

“The majority of clinics have actually closed,” Guglielmi said. “We have one still operating in Illinois.”

Still, Silliven said POWM, an alliance of about 600 physicians in West Michigan, remains open to the concept.

“It’s always a possibility. We never say never,” he said. “We just have to sort of wait and see how things open up or change in the market as far as access to immediate care goes. We’re still studying the concept, still doing market research.”

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